The Two Most Important Decisions Your Child Will Ever Make

Barry-300-320x240by Barry Adkins

“It’s just alcohol; at least they are not doing drugs.” How many of us have said this, heard it, or thought it? Often we think that as long as they are “just drinking” our children will be okay. The truth is, most illegal drugs are tried, for the first time, under the influence of alcohol. Alcohol kills more than all illegal drugs combined. Try using Google to search for the term “alcohol abuse,” and check out how many results you get.

Those precious children that you have held, burped, changed diapers and loved, have hopes and dreams. They dream of growing up and finding a cure for cancer, making the world a better place, being president, (insert your child’s dream here). They will be faced with many decisions that will determine whether their hopes and dreams are realized. Decisions like where they want to go to college, what they want to study, where they want to live, etc.

All important decisions, no doubt, but the two most important decisions your child will ever make are about drugs and alcohol. Make one bad decision with respect to drugs or alcohol and all of the above hopes and dreams are gone, vanished into thin air.

It’s too late for my son, Kevin, but it’s not too late for your child. The decisions your child makes about drugs and alcohol will have a profound effect on how their lives turn out. Educate yourself, and then educate your children. Act as if their lives depend on it, because they do.

When you lose a child the most that you can hope for is to make something very good come from it. That is what I plan to spend the rest of my life doing.

Dad’s Eye View

I guess that’s how it is when you grow up and have children. The world is in a constant state of change, but so am I. The view through the window is never the same twice, and neither is the view from the eye’s of a dad.

When I was the same age as my little ones, it always seemed that all the world was a stage and that life was a movie starring myself. Outside of my agenda, nothing else really seemed to matter. I could never see the dangers that lie ahead in life. The let downs and the downsides that I would later experience.

There was change happening all around, but I couldn’t see it, couldn’t understand it. I wasn’t able to recognize that the world was in constant motion, and that life would not stay the same way forever. The time was magical. It was full on wonderment and excitement.

Now I have two little ones of my own, and the view of the world has changed so much. Through a new set of eyes, a dad’s eyes, the world is a much different place. Activities that, as a child, seemed so harmless, I now look at with fear while watching my children. All the cool games we played, all of the cool things we got into, they no longer seem so cool. They seem dangerous, and sometimes, even dumb.

I remember all of the fun things we used to say in elementary school because we thought we were cool, or just because we weren’t near our parents. Those phrases, words, and jokes are now the very things that my ears dread hearing from my own kiddos. They are the very things that I feel like I have to say “no” to a thousand times a minute.

But that is life, right?

I guess that’s how it is when you grow up and have children. The world is in a constant state of change, but so am I. The view through the window is never the same twice, and neither is the view from the eye’s of a dad. I want the best for my children, for them to be happy, healthy and safe. I don’t see the world as I once did. I know about the dangers, the unfairness, the let downs my children will face. I don’t see the unending canvas of endless possibilities of fun and excitement. But I do remember what it was like, and I promote and applaud my children for that same view.

My eyes see the world in a different light now. That’s part of the job and part of growing up. I see the world as a dad would see it. A scary place to set your kids into, a place of uncertainty and excitement. A challenge to show the world who I am as a dad as it reflects through my children. A challenge against the visions of manhood we see displayed all around us, and a fight against the way the world depicts me as being a dad. I see it as a place that needs a lot more change before my kids become full fledged members of society.

Maybe I’m just rambling, and perhaps the words will get lost with the past views that have passed in front of my window. Perhaps it’s not the world that has changed, just me

Mom, Dad or Parent

Let’s focus on being more involved, loving and nurturing dads. We will be happier. Our partners will be happier. Our kids will be happier. By doing all of that we organically change the way others think.

Anyone who follows the parent blogging world knows the recent addition to the stereotype built against dads. The Huggie’s “Dad Test” ads expose a point of frustration for dads: the idea that dads are not capable to handle the duties that are required of having a kid. Changing diapers, feeding, watching, etc.

Being a professional in the marketing and advertising field I completely understand the use of stereotypes. We have to have them to reach out to a target audience affectively. Take the standard 35 year old mom. A helpful stereotype for marketers for this demographic is that her hobbies mostly consist of activities with her family. She probably is active on social media and enjoys providing some type of motherly act for her family. Whether it’s cooking, housework or just making sure that everyone in the family is happy she’s all about the role of being a mom (whatever that may mean to her).

That’s an example of a useful, non-offensive stereotype. There’s a clear difference between how a mom is stereotyped and how a dad is when it comes to advertising. If it’s taking care of the house, kids, etc the dad is often the incompetent one. When it comes to everything else (deodorant, cars, beer) we are focused on sex and things that make us “manly.” It contradicts the social trend of changing roles. More women are getting college degrees than men. 38% of dads are the primary caregiver of the child (up 17% in 10 years). We are moving closer to not having defined roles as parents. You’re don’t have the characteristics of a “dad” or “mom.” You’re just a parent. Both are responsible for nurturing, loving, watching, interacting and developing their children.

I talked about this in a past post, so I won’t keep building on this. I am happy for this new role of the “21st century dad.” Sure, it means being a man is being more vulnerable. Sure, you have to show your feelings, realize when you’re wrong, and let your wife take a shot at her dreams outside of family life.

I’m a firm believer that we go in cycles as a society. Something gets bad. We become aware. We change it. It gets better. It gets worse. We become aware. So on and so on. We are very aware of what an absentee father does to a kid’s development. We are highly aware of the high divorce rate and what that does to families. We recognize this and men who are willing to realize that they need to be more of an involved parent will have well developed kids and happier marriages.

I also believe that we make a point to place blame on others for our misfortunes. Should marketers realize that they need to change the way they look at dads? Yes. Are men making more daily household purchasing decisions? I believe so. But let’s not put all of our energy into talking about how mistreated we are as dads. Let’s focus on being more involved, loving and nurturing dads. We will be happier. Our partners will be happier. Our kids will be happier. By doing all of that we organically change the way others think.

By Jared Miller

Catch Jared on Twitter @WingDaddyHood and on his blog!

No Harm, No Foul, No Apologies

In these ways, moms and dads are not that different. We all share a common ground which should be remembered by both parties. We share our fallibility, we share the parts of us that make us fail at times. We share human nature. And when it comes to being human? No harm, no foul, no apologies.

**Note: This is a fixed up repost from my personal blog. As certain events have unfolded in my life, and with words that have been floated my way recently, it is very fitting to my mood today, so I wanted to share it here too**

 

There is probably a lot in life that I should apologize for. Fighting with the wife, punishing a child then later finding out they weren’t the one at fault, being late to work because I had no motivation to show up. Perhaps I should take into consideration the lies I told my parents when I was a kid, the times I stole from others during my later teens and early 20’s, and the guy I flipped off and almost wrecked the day before the wife gave birth to Little Man.

These are just a few things I could think of that I should apologize for. There are many more, but it would take years of posts to list them all. The better side of this is that I have done things that don’t warrant an apology, whether others see it as right or wrong. The biggest , and perhaps most steadfast action I will never apologize for, is for not being mommy.

Here we go:

People like to compare dads and moms, and hardly ever is it in a good way. Though that is a view that has been shifted greatly in recent years, but there is still a long ways to go. In more specific detail, people like to compare SAHDs to SAHMs like they are inferior, weaker, and more likely to fold under pressure. Recently, personally, it has been said that maybe if I did things more like mommy then my new role as the at-home parent during the week wouldn’t be so bad.

Here’s the thing:

I am not mommy. I am not my wife. I am not a female. I don’t do things the same way she does, but I will never, EVER apologize for that. Since when did doing things different mean that you were doing things wrong? Nap time came 30 minutes later than normal. Big deal, we still napped, and were up in time to get Little Man off the bus. No harm, no foul, no apologies.

I think that popcorn and apples are perfectly acceptable snack time foods. Oh dear Lord though, I gave them something not so healthy along with something healthy. But guess what? Nobody is in bad health, nobody had explosive diarrhea or a case of the farts that would run out any weiner dog nearby. Nobody puked, nobody even cared. It was snack time with a movie, and popcorn and apples sounded delicious. No harm, no foul, no apologies.

When it comes to discipline, I take the role of “Daddy Law Enforcement Agent” pretty quickly. There are some things that can slide with a quick “no, don’t do that” or will cease with the simple use of a child’s middle name. However, there are sometimes when more direct actions need to be taken. A time out, a slap on the hand for a hitting infraction, or being sent to a room until crying has stopped. Again though, I parent on my terms, not anyone else’s. Despite some of the harder days (like a recent hand in the diaper, poop in the face incident), despite the fact that there are evenings when it seems there is more disciplining going on than singing and dancing, my children love me, and I love them. No harm, no foul, no apologies.

Where am I going with this? Nowhere really. Just been kind of bothered by comments and remarks I have heard from people about my parenting style. And being told that I should be more like mommy? Well, that just sends me over the edge. I am not mommy. I am not a female and I am not my wife. Parents use different styles. It’s different between moms and dads, different between dads and dads, and different between moms and moms.

What matters is that I choose to parent effectively, lovingly, and without harsh judgement. Do I always succeed? No I don’t. But do you always succeed? No you don’t. We are human and we are fallible. That is how we work. We succeed or we fail. But we learn what we can for the next time. Even if next time is not the same as the previous, we have something to go by that helps us make better decisions.

In these ways, moms and dads are not that different. We all share a common ground which should be remembered by both parties. We share our fallibility, we share the parts of us that make us fail at times. We share human nature. And when it comes to being human? No harm, no foul, no apologies.

Metal Mayhem

What started with my dad providing these memories for his son by being there, going to the shows, and enduring what those shows entailed, now continues with that same son, now raising a son of his own, and using a passion for music to create some grand memories. And in the end, that’s what it is all about to begin with. Not that we all share the same musical taste, but the fact that we were there and a part of the memory to begin with.

If you follow me on Twitter then you may have noticed that recently I have been on a kick of listening to metal. Bands like Confide, We Came As Romans, Killswitch Engage, and Bullet for My Valentine, just to name drop a few. Since high school, I have had an ear for metal, hardcore, post-hardcore, and music of the like. Some great father/son memories were created between me and my dad going to hardcore shows to see local scene heroes Stretch Arm Strong. To this day, I still think that my dad might have enjoyed going, just as much as I enjoyed getting down in the pit. You would never find him down in there with me, but the point was he cared enough to endure the intense volume of music and heat in the venue. What can I say? My dad ROCKS!

Little Man has also become somewhat of a fan of metal as well. Both of us being influenced by my brother-in-law. “Uncle Bubby” as he is called by the little ones, is a guru of all things metal music. We have had some great times in this house banging our heads until we got dizzy, riffing it up on air guitars, and just killing it on air drums. Then of course, being in my growing age, I get out of breath, have to sit down, and then the party is over. But it doesn’t seem to matter to the little dude. Whether we rock out for 10 minutes or one song, the fact is daddy took the time to rock out with him.

It never ceases to amaze me how music seems to provide those moments, or create memories, or just be such an influence in our lives. Music holds a special power that uplifts, brings people together, gives them a reason to carry on, or just seems to define who a person is. Now honestly, you would have to actually ask my dad whether he enjoyed the hardcore and punk shows, or listening to “For the Record” 18 times on the way to the video shoot at the Elbow Room. I’m sure there were many nights where we got home, he went to the bedroom and told my mom to break out the ibuprophen. But that is who my dad is. To him, it was about an opportunity to provide a special moment for his son.

For myself and my miniature me, while I don’t think he is ready for his first concert, we create our own experience right here at home. Even when I have my guitar out jamming, he will take some time to get his guitar and rock right along. He can’t play chords, he can’t really carry a tune, or pull off brutal metal growls, but the boy has a passion for music. Through this shared passion, we create bonding moments everyday in which music plays an important role. When he wants to rock out, we rock out. When he wants to join me in rocking, he does.

Funny the things that we find bridging the generations in our families. For us, metal mayhem just happens to be one of those things. What started with my dad providing these memories for his son by being there, going to the shows, and enduring what those shows entailed, now continues with that same son, now raising a son of his own, and using a passion for music to create some grand memories. And in the end, that’s what it is all about to begin with. Not that we all share the same musical taste, but the fact that we were there and a part of the memory to begin with.

The See-Saw Effect: Balancing the Daddy and Hubby Roles

I have to be love, relationships, understanding, sacrifice, support, mutuality, trying, forgiveness, failure, and success and I have to be the example of those things as well. If I am setting the wrong example, I am probably being the wrong husband. If I am being the wrong husband, I am probably being the wrong example. So the see-saw tips back and forth, but with a little more ease. I’m never going to be the perfect of either, but I can keep the rocking to a minimum. Those relationships are too important to let slip, and too intertwined to let go.

There are many things I was never told about, when it comes to parenting, before I had to experience them for myself. Perhaps it was intended this way because, honestly, the subject I am trying to tackle today is not an easy one. It is probably one of those things I am better off experiencing before the advice rolls in because it is not really something that someone outside can help with.

There are two definitive arguments that surround the topic of balancing being a dad and balancing being a husband. There is the side that says “Children don’t change your relationships, they only make them stronger” and “Children change your entire life and nothing is ever the same again”. Me, I’m with the latter of the two arguments. When you have children, it’s like signing a new job contract. The terms, conditions, and privacy clauses all change, and life starts all over again. Children are not just little beings that grow up in our house. Taking care of them is a full time job of itself. One, that you will never get paid for.

My wife and I had been married almost a year when our first child was born. We were still kind of riding that high of the “we just got married, life has never been better, and things couldn’t be more perfect” when that little pregnancy test told us that it would all change. Of course, times were a little harder for us then, so there was just as much stress as there was joy, but no matter, we were starting to add to our family and start a new life by creating life. Two years and 6 days later, we would have our second child and life would once again start over for us. Now, we would no longer be a family of three. We would be a family of four, with new challenges, and new routines. We would have new responsibilities and new stresses.

At that point, the see-saw tipped, and the back and forth motion began to get stronger. The balance of trying to be the best dad and best husband at the same time was upset, and so was I. To a great extent, I still am, which is why I write this today. It’s a difficult question to answer, there are a strong two-sides to it, and I have even asked many dads in the past to answer it. And this is where I ponder today. Which is more important: being a husband or being a dad? Please feel free to share your thoughts and answer in the comments below.

To me, the answer becomes clearer a little bit at a time. It is of great importance that I strive, strain, and try my best to be the best damn dad I an be for my children. It doesn’t matter if I am the greatest dad in the world, just that my children think so. It is of great importance that I strive, strain, and try my best to be the best damn husband I can be for my wife. It doesn’t matter if I am the greatest husband in the world, just that my wife thinks so. But is it possible to be good at one and not at the other?

My children look to me as the male who will influence them the most on things like love, relationships, understanding, sacrifice, support, mutuality, trying, forgiveness, failure, and success. My wife will look to me to be the best of all of these for her as she will need me to be. I look to my wife for the same, as I will need her to be. Being the influence of such strong topics to such strong willed and minded children is a daunting task, and never easy. And when things get rough, they get rough for everyone. When we are hurting, my children are hurting with us.

So the answer, I have to be both. I have to be love, relationships, understanding, sacrifice, support, mutuality, trying, forgiveness, failure, and success and I have to be the example of those things as well. If I am setting the wrong example, I am probably being the wrong husband. If I am being the wrong husband, I am probably being the wrong example. So the see-saw tips back and forth, but with a little more ease. I’m never going to be the perfect of either, but I can keep the rocking to a minimum. Those relationships are too important to let slip, and too intertwined to let go.

Cutting Through the Cute

Knowing that the tears will fall and my baby girl, that precious baby girl, will cry, probably scream, maybe even flail about like a marlin that has jumped on shore, just breaks my heart. No dad wants to see his little girl crying. Yet, when the time comes, there are those times that we have to stand our ground, and like Tom Petty, we won’t back down. It’s a tough, cruel world that causes a dad to have to go through that. Or… it’s a stubborn, tough as nails, independent, sassy little diva, who just uses her powers to the fullest.

My precious daughter has me wrapped so tight around her finger that it is absolutely ridiculous. I mean, cut off the circulation, makes your fingernail turn a funky purple/blue color before just dropping off like a melting icecicle. I’ve heard it said very often that most little girls become daddy’s girls. And that dads are just powerless against the awe that comes to them when becoming the dad of a daughter. I know, it’s such a sweet sentiment to adore my daughter so much that I have gone to work with painted toenails (pink and green) because we had to paint daddy’s toes that morning.

But there is an awful paradox to being so smitten by cuteness, beauty, and love. The same, sweet little daughter of mine, is also an independent, outspoken, and sometimes self-minded little diva. By this I mean she is bossy, she is pushy, and she knows exactly where the limit is, and pushes it to the limit, but never crosses the line. When the going gets tough, she meets opposition head on, never backing off, and always knowing which weapon to use. And this, of course, involves the most powerful weapon nicknamed “The Cute”.

Now, The Cute is a weapon of secretive complexity, and the capability to be adapted for use in any situation. Whether it is too avoid due punishment, or to win over the 7th cookie that the child should not be having, The Cute is extremely effective. LG has mastered the training and proper use of this weapon to a point that all of my intense ninja/knight/samurai defensive maneuvers are useless against it. From the crouching tiger to the hidden dragon, there is no move I can pull out that will aid me in my flight. I am pretty stern and steadfast when discipline needs to be upheld, but those eyes, those pouty lips, that one salty tear that forms at the the corner of those puppy eyes… well… they make it pretty difficult to dig in and hold on.

In fact, as I am writing this, there is an intense stare down going on over the thrown sippy cup, and not sharing. I’ll keep you posted on the progress later.

Cutting through to the core of The Cute is a rather daunting, and sometimes heartbreaking task. It’s one of those “this will hurt me more than it hurts you” kind of situations. Knowing that the tears will fall and my baby girl, that precious baby girl, will cry, probably scream, maybe even flail about like a marlin that has jumped on shore, just breaks my heart. No dad wants to see his little girl crying. Yet, when the time comes, there are those times that we have to stand our ground, and like Tom Petty, we won’t back down. It’s a tough, cruel world that causes a dad to have to go through that. Or… it’s a stubborn, tough as nails, independent, sassy little diva, who just uses her powers to the fullest.

[Update: The stare down has ended. She killed me with a sly shot of kissy face and fluttering eyes. Little Girl: 1 Daddy: 0]

So yeah, as I was saying, it’s not always an easy task. And in some cases, I will completely admit my powerlessness over the situation. When it comes to sharing a Little Debbie cake, or wanting to constantly be held, or sit in my lap, I will give in. No matter how hard I try, I will give in. Then there are those times where I will do the almost impossible, and let the crying commence. The Cute is indeed a powerful weapon, and I have a strong feeling it will always be adapting as the years go by.

Watching from a Distance: With Tearful Eyes

At a critical stage for development in them, I reach a critical stage of backing off. The new year roles around and so do many changes. I’m sure there will be many memories made, many new things learned. And plenty of opportunities to just sit back and watch.

Yes indeed, the year is about at it’s end. So much can happen in the course of 365 days. There are a lot of memories to be made, a lot of learning that can occur, and a lot of growing up to be done. During the last 12 months, we have seen a lot of change, a lot of growing, and have made a lot of memories. In looking back to the beginning of the year, and looking upon all of the events of the year, I turn my focus to the kids.

My, oh my how they have grown. Physically, and as their own little persons. I look back in amazement at how much they have learned, how much they can do, and how much of an individual both of them have become. I know at this point next year, I will be saying these same exact words. I’m pretty sure I did this time last year too. This year however, it is with somewhat tearful eyes I look on.

Looking towards the past, or off into the future, is always looking from a distance. Looking from a spot that requires a different angle, a different focus. With a somewhat tearful eye, I know that for me, the future will require watching my children from more of a distance as well. As they learn and they grow, they will continue to grow more independent of my guidance and my hand. They will be striding on down life’s road a little further ahead of me than they have in the past. For me, it’s a hard realization to come to grips with. After four years of being the working parent, and missing out on so much, I am finally home with the kids on most days. And now that I am home more, I have to disengage a little more. Just doesn’t seem right does it?

The fact is, it is exactly what is right for my children at this stage. They are more than eager to explore the world around them without as much guidance and security from myself and my wife. They are more confident, more aware of dangers, and maybe a little more cocky too. They know a greater understanding of right versus wrong, and good versus bad. They have their boundaries and are ready to push as close as they can to the edge of said boundaries. It is truly an amazing thing in itself. To think that my two little munchkins are their own people now. They have their own agendas, own plans for the day, and their own imagination of what more could be possible during the hours they are awake.

Of course, I want to be right there. Grabbing on before every may or may not be fall. I want to be constantly telling them that something is not safe, or not a good idea, or whatever. But I can’t. I shouldn’t, and I don’t know quite how to feel. I am proud of the individuals they are becoming. Don’t get me wrong about that. I want to raise strong, reliable, independent individuals in my kids. But for so long, I have been the playmate, the lunch maker, the guardian of all toys, and protector. And now? Now I’m like the spotter in a NASCAR race. I don’t watch a lot of racing anymore, but I’m pretty sure they still use spotters. They let the drivers do their thing, but they watch from a distance giving the best advice possible and hoping he driver can do the right thing with the information.

I guess I won’t be the only one learning things in this new year. As they learn their new boundaries, new abilities, and new limits, I will also be learning these things about them. And I will be learning to watch from a distance. At a critical stage for development in them, I reach a critical stage of backing off. The new year roles around and so do many changes. I’m sure there will be many memories made, many new things learned. And plenty of opportunities to just sit back and watch.

Sweating a Sex Education Class for Fathers and Sons

I watched as fathers and their sons entered the auditorium for the evening’s edification. Each pair sat side by side, talking to one another in hushed voices, as if waiting for a funeral to commence. I quelled my tension by trying to place myself in my son’s situation. Surely he must be feeling weirder than I about being dragged to yet another event “that’s good for him.” I was careful not to squirm.

Fatherhood continues to amaze, delight and enrich me. I just went to a sex education class with my 11 year-old son, and yes, I was secretly dreading it.

My wife signed us up. She was almost giddy from the program’s great reviews she’d heard through her ever-flowing moms’ grapevine. “Everyone says it’s the best… you’ll love it,” she exclaimed.

I wasn’t so sure. The reality of a graphic immersion into the world of human sexuality with my offspring without the props of a punch line or locker room towel snap was a bit off putting.

Yet daddy duty called, and as a father who strives to be aware and there, I certainly endorsed the concept of a truthful discussion about the challenges of puberty, sexuality, reproduction and the like.

Driving… slowly… to the appointment with my son, who now rides in the front passenger seat next to me, I wondered why I felt so apprehensive. A memory of my own father’s dilemma about this subject made me smile with some understanding.

You see, my dad, while a college professor and exhaustively loquacious on most subjects, played hooky when it came to discussing sex with me.

When I was in my early teen years, long after I’d learned the playground buzz of the birds and bees and even taken some experimental sprints at some of the “bases,” my dad said he wanted to show me something. He led me upstairs into his bedroom, opened the top drawer of his dresser, and lifted up a pile of handkerchiefs to reveal a box of condoms.

I still remember the brand: Ramses. I guess the manufacturer of Ramses wanted a heroic image from antiquity to compete with Trojans. But since the Egyptian king Ramses reportedly fathered 160 children, it’s little wonder why this brand has been discontinued.

Anyway, my dad said, “Here are the safes. I’m going to tell you what Dr. Jones told his kids.” Dr. Jones (not the real name of my dad’s colleague professor) had a brood of rough and tumble boys.

“If you get a girl pregnant,” my dad continued, “don’t bother coming home.” With that, he left the room. That was it. That was his drive-by, hit-and-run, scare tactic method of sex education. And “safes,” don’t you love that term? Never heard it used before or since.

I watched as fathers and their sons entered the auditorium for the evening’s edification. Each pair sat side by side, talking to one another in hushed voices, as if waiting for a funeral to commence. I quelled my tension by trying to place myself in my son’s situation. Surely he must be feeling weirder than I about being dragged to yet another event “that’s good for him.” I was careful not to squirm.

The lesson began, and I learned the true value of a good ice breaker. Having sat through innumerable meetings in which well-intentioned facilitators asked everyone to “go around the room and say something about themselves,” I had my doubts.

But our sex education teacher asked all the men to give a different synonym, however crude, for the penis. And he went around the room, right up and into the faces of all the dads, and politely but firmly demanded that we come up with an answer… a different name each time.

It was hysterical. There were almost no repeats from about 60 dads. Cultural and geographic differences unearthed endless variety. Everyone, all the kids and dads, were laughing and loosening up, releasing fear and anxiety, and sharing in the common bodily bond of masculinity.

From there it was a breeze. On the way home, my son asked me a couple clarifying questions, and I was struck both by how basic are the knowledge needs of tweens and by how casually I was able to answer him. He was more like my buddy when I shared my information. I was not hung up by embarrassment or thoughts about what a proper dad might say. I just told him the truth in my own salty terms.

My son listened intently, then said, “I get it.”

And I got it. This sex education class transformed taboo into prosaic. It was the learning ladder that assisted our leap over a tricky hurdle. We connected more as fellow males rather than as father and son. And I’m confident this unspoken yet powerful linkage will help us confront future issues more forthrightly and solve them more readily. My fingers are crossed that this is true.

I’m glad I didn’t flunk out on my chance to go to sex ed class with my son. Oh, and to answer that question left dangling there… the synonym I offered rhymes with “wants.”

Lin Filppu (@MidLifeDad)

This column first appeared in the Huffington Post Parents section http://www.huffingtonpost.com/len-filppu/sweating-a-sex-education-_b_1129325.html

Tobogganing For Dads: Hill Repeats

If you’ve got kinds under 5, you know that messing around with them is a great workout.

You’re running, you’re stretching, you’re lifting 40 pound squirming dumbbells. It doesn’t do much to mold and sculpt your body (Dads have beer guts. It’s from how we hold our kids, we can’t help it.) but at least it’s some physical activity that is challenging different muscle groups.

Go ahead, chase a 3 year old around a playground and try to tell me that’s not a P90X level challenge.

With the playground covered in white and the temps near freezing, your usual workout needs to be modified.

Here’s a way you can try to trim it down this winter, with another DadCAMP Workout: Hill Repeats.

It’s simple:

Find a toboggan hill. Push the kid down the hill. Listen to him scream. Beg him to climb back up the hill. Run down the hill to get your kid. Pull him in the sled back up the hill. Repeat for 45 minutes or until one of the kids has to go potty.

Posted by DadCamp

Be Cognizant of Being Over Protective of Your Kids

Today I wanted to talk about the protection of our children and being able to let go when needed.

Today I wanted to talk about the protection of our children and being able to let go when needed.
Today we are talking about being protective our children. When I talk about this, it is important to know what it means to be protective and what it means to be overprotective. There have been many times when I have seen parents who disagree to the extent of protecting their children, and I have even found J-Mom and I differing on this every now and again. Thus, as parents you must have a discussion while your children are young to determine where that line is for each of you. Every parent is different and there is no right answer regarding this, but there are signs of over protection that you should be aware of and steer away from.
Some questions you should ask yourself include:
  • How far can you child ride their bike without you being concerned about their well being?
  • Can you child go and play in the dirt (getting dirty along the way) without repercussion?
  • If your child starts to cry (or fake cry) do you run to their side or do you take more of the “are you bleeding?” approach.
  • Do your children make choices for themselves or do they always defer to you?
If you answered yes to any (or all) of the above, this does not mean completely that you are overprotective, but it may give you something to pause about as you are thinking about the raising of your children. As the below articles will reflect, providing a safe environment is critical, yet it is very important to provide your kids room to grow and learn in an environment that encourages exploration and (some) risk taking.

So ask yourself the above questions? Do you find yourself to be overprotective? In what ways? What steps will you take to provide your kids more room to make choices and take risks? Do you feel that being overly protective is a negative trait, why or why not?

If you are so inclined please leave your responses in a comment below.  I look forward to your thoughts and comments!

Teaching Your Kids to Serve Others

I am a Rotarian and their creed is “Service Above Self”, thus for me it is important to be able to live this on a daily basis and also espouse it to my children with the hope that they will follow my example as they grow older.

I am a Rotarian and their creed is “Service Above Self”, thus for me it is important to be able to live this on a daily basis and also espouse it to my children with the hope that they will follow my example as they grow older.

Serving others can be as simple as doing something like what you see in the image above, or it can be giving your time to a child through Big Brothers/Big Sisters. No matter how you serve, it is important that your children see you doing this and understand why it is important. Too often in the media driven age that we live in, children fail to see the good in others and the good in reaching out and making a difference to people around them. Watching you as their parents, they will see either through overt or non-action what is important and will take your cue. Thus, if you can start instilling in your children at an early age that serving others in some way that is meaningful to them is positive and important, they will live a life of service as they grow into adulthood.

Some questions you should ask yourself include:

  • How do you and your child serve others?
  • What are some activities that you and your child can do together that will serve others in your community?
As you begin to answer these questions you may find it necessary to revisit them over time as your answers and definitely the answers about your children will change as you all change and grow.

In researching this topic I came across a few sites that I thought that I would share with all of you:

In what ways do you serve others on a daily/weekly basis and how do you share this with your kids?

Are you a Dad – Become An Author!

I have always written in journals. I still even have journals from when I was younger. As I have gotten older I still have continued to keep a journal.

I have always written in journals. I still even have journals from when I was younger. As I have gotten older I still have continued to keep a journal. I have found that doing this helps to keep track of small things, important things as well as ideas and thoughts. I find that entries may be formal or informal.

I am recommending a journal to assist you as a parent because I have found that you as a parent you can not only see your own parental growth, but it can help you to assess your parenting and see what areas you may need to work on and develop.
Will your writing always be about parenting, probably not, but it could be if you so chose. One of the journals that I have kept is a journal for my daughters. Will I ever give it to them, maybe. I tend to be quite honest in it about the fears, concerns and truths about everything, and it would probably be quite a few years before the girls could understand and comprehend all that was in it. Never-the-less I still write in it and it is cathartic to say the least.
Many parent bloggers started their own blogs as a journal or letter to their own children. I know that this was the case for me. As I started to blog I wanted to leave something that my girls could look back at and say, wow, my Dad did really love me enough to write about me (maybe this is wishful thinking). As I have met more and more bloggers, I have continued to learn and grow myself in my writing and my parenting skills.
In researching this post I found the following resources that may assist you in starting a journal.
So today think about taking one week and starting a daily journal about your own prenting experiences. There is no set style that you must follow or length that is required. Simply follow through and see what you think at the end of the week. Come back here to let people know about your thoughts about how things are going after the first few days as well as the mid point and end of the process.

Teaching The Power of Passion

Children need to be exposed to many things as they are growing up. As parents it is important to let them explore different types of activities and interests. We need to encourage these interests and not trivialize them in any way (even if they don’t make sense to us).


Children need to be exposed to many things as they are growing up. As parents it is important to let them explore different types of activities and interests. We need to encourage these interests and not trivialize them in any way (even if they don’t make sense to us).Our children are going through a process of exploration and must be able to make choices and learn for themselves where their true passion lies.

Sometimes this means entering your child’s world and coming to a better understanding of what their interests are and why they are interested in that specific item or items. Sometimes it means knowing your child well enough to encourage them to try something that they may not have thought about trying in the past because they did not know anything about it. For example, encouraging your child to try chess because you know that they love to play games that require thinking and logic and then finding them opportunities to play chess if they do find that they enjoy the game.

It is also important to let your children into your own world, helping them to understand what you are passionate about and why you are passionate about these things. It helps to have them involved in some of the activities that you are involved within so that they can understand and see that being passionate about something is a good thing and can truly make your life more meaningful.

For some kids you will have to be persistent and continuous in your encouragement as they may be slower to find a passion for themselves. As parents you have to be vigilant in encouraging your child to continue trying their best to find what will make them happy.

Some questions you should ask yourself include:

  • What am I passionate about?
  • What is my child passionate about? What are their interests and why are they interested in them?
  • How can I do a better job at sharing my passions and interests with my children?
  • How can I be more encouraging of my child’s interests?

As you begin to answer these questions you may find it necessary to revisit them over time as your answers and definitely the answers about your children will change as you all change and grow.

In researching this topic I came across a few sites that I thought that I would share with all of you:

What are your thoughts regarding this topic? You might want to try and make a list of your passions and share them with your spouse/partner/friend and then talk about these passions andhow you can share these passions with your children. I would love to hear what you come up with!



Party Time 2011: Pass the Excedrin

The day will be many things all rolled into one. A grand day for the kids, and a long day for mommy and daddy. Thankfully the dad in me will allow for all of the joy and happiness to be the highlights of the day an the rest will just be the result of all the happiness

This Saturday we will throw a party to celebrate both of the kiddos birthdays. Being so close in age and still so young, we have their parties together for ease of planning and execution. Little Man will be 4 this month and Little Girl will be 2. Hard to believe how fast the time has passed. With the Toy Story theme selected, the final preparations have begun.

The Wifey is great at getting everything planned out to a science. I on the other hand have the habit of looking at where the stress points will be that day. Watching the kids while mommy decorates for the party, keeping the kids from running a riot in front of the community center where we are having the party, and the clean up process afterwards. Maintaining sanity in such a setting is sometimes a losing battle.

Don’t get me wrong, I love celebrating birthdays with the kids. The squeals of delight as they play with new toys and all the friends and family that come as well is music to my ears. For some reason though, these kinds of day also bring anxiety. This year seems to be even more anxiety driven, and I really have no explanation for it. Maybe it was the last minute switching of shifts to make sure I had the day off. I was originally scheduled to be at work during the party. Needless to say, that is not going to happen.

It is one day that daddy has to be janitor, security guard, and child herder all at the same time in a setting that is outside of the house. While these three rolls are common to be played together at home, they become extra overwhelming in an outside setting. A joyous day it is to be, but I will be thankful for the invention of headache medicine by the time the day is over. Despite the majority of planning and decorating being done by mom, the dad duties of the day have me doing some planning of my own. For example, at 8am I will take two Tylenol. Right at the start of the party I will drink a giant Red Bull. By 6pm I will move on to the Excedrin and rebound from my sugar crash.

The day will be many things all rolled into one. A grand day for the kids, and a long day for mommy and daddy. Thankfully the dad in me will allow for all of the joy and happiness to be the highlights of the day an the rest will just be the result of all the happiness. It is difficult at times, but I always try to not let the stress get to me. This is their day and they need me to be just as excited as them. I will be too. Until about 9pm. At that time a beer will open, a butt will hit the couch, and somebody (cough me cough) will start to gripe about sore feet. Until that hour, the celebration is on, and it’s time to party!

Being Engaged With Your Kids

When I talk about being engaged, I am referring to doing things directly with the kids that are important to them and that they find enjoyable and fun. This could be something such as cooking with them, playing sports or games or other such activity that brings a smile on your and your child’s face (as hopefully you are having fun as well).

When I talk about being engaged, I am referring to doing things directly with the kids that are important to them and that they find enjoyable and fun. This could be something such as cooking with them, playing sports or games or other such activity that brings a smile on your and your child’s face (as hopefully you are having fun as well).
Our children crave our attention and don’t care what else is on our minds. They don’t understand when we have a big deadline, or when we had a bad day. Instead, when they see you (especially as they are young) they light up and are happy to just have you around.
I know for me, I get distracted and get pulled away while at home, and sometimes it takes a word from J-Mom to break me out of my disconnected stupor to see that what I have in front of me is so much more important than what I was doing on the computer, or what was on the television or what was in a book. I appreciate the interrupt and at times I believe that we all need a bit of a disruption to get us back on track.
Some questions you should ask yourself include:
  • How are you engaged with your child?
  • How are you distracted from this engagement, and what can you do to minimize this when around your child?
As you begin to answer these questions you may find it necessary to revisit them over time as your answers and definitely the answers about your children will change as you all change and grow.
In researching this topic I came across a few sites that I thought that I would share with all of you:

So develop a list of five things that you can do to better engage with your child today. Make sure that the list includes things that are important to the child but also will lead to positive experiences for you as well. Take one activity on the list and do it with your child today!

WTH are They Saying WOMBAT ROTFL???

One of the most important things in learning a new language is to speak to others in the language and have others speak to you in the same language. Also, in reviewing numerous parenting books, language acquisition of infants is greater with those that are spoken to often.

Thus, from an early age parents need to be cognizant of this and need to instill the importance of communication in their kids.

As your kids get older, this communication becomes that much more important. Through disciplining your kids when they are young (so they can learn, grow and understand). As your kids enter school and they begin to meet other children, every day is an adventure. Some days are going to be positive, and some days will be negative. It is critical you’re your kids feel comfortable enough to talk to you about their hopes, fears, and concerns regarding their experiences so that they can know that they can depend on your support and guidance to assist them as they need it.
Even older, as your children start dating, as a parent you hopefully will have set a strong foundation for two way communication to occur. You will not always agree with each other, but with a foundation built you still should be able to communicate with each other so that you both can understand.
As they get to adulthood, your communication relationship will change as it has throughout their lives, but the foundation you set when they were young will remain solvent and critical for your future relationship to continue to flourish.
In researching this topic I came across the following links that I felt would be valuable resources for you to access.

 

So my question for all of you is how or what do you do to better communicate with your kids? Please share some of your thoughts and tips on how best to communicate especially in this age of technology where some parents have to have a dictionary to understand what their child is saying. So good luck and if you need a dictionary, check this one out!


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Two Small Words

Two small words that take up 9 characters on a screen can still the hastened heart and the angry soul. Knowing this, I gladly trade in manliness in me for the ability to bring the worlds back to harmony.

In my four years of being a dad I have learned many things. I have learned how to treat the croup without going to the doctor, how to change an explosive diaper in 4.86 seconds, and how to carry two children and a laundry basket at the same time. The journey is always teaching me a lot about being a dad, and also about the kind of person I am. Fatherhood has changed my life in so many ways that I could write on every dad blog out there, and never have enough room. One thing I have learned recently is that there are two small words that no matter how soft or how loud they are spoken, they can bring the universe into harmony. Those two small words: I’m Sorry.

Having two toddlers it has become quite commonplace to have to tell one to apologize to the other. Hitting, pushing, shouting, and so on, they know that when the DLEA (Daddy Law Enforcement Agent) steps in, that they must behave, and apologies must be issued. The only problem with this is that I don’t know if they understand what the words mean that they are saying. In perspective, I sometimes wonder if I fully grasp their meaning as well. But time has shown me that my kids are growing more and more intelligent, and know when these two words need to come from my mouth, and not theirs.

To my children, I am not only “dad” but I am the healer of boo boos, the vanquisher of boogies, and a super hero capable of many amazing feats. It is great to think of myself as some kind of super being. It’ s even more fun to put on a cape and wear my underwear outside and try to fly. Not that I do any of that of course. Despite the many roles my kids may see me in, two roles I never get out of are being human and being fallible. I am not a perfect person and I am subject to making mistakes. Just as I teach them about apologizing for doing something wrong,  I must make sure I live these teachings. I must not be afraid to admit wrong doing and to speak those two little words.

No matter how macho I want to be (or pretend to be) or how right I want to be, the fact is I cannot always be right, and thinking I am can cause hurt feelings. As we teach our children the important difference between right and wrong, we need to remember our own lessons. We are leaders of our families, heads of tribes, the big cheeses. Our teachings and wisdom have no value without practice.

It is okay to say those two small words. We will mess up, we will say things in anger, or do things without thinking. It doesn’t make us bad people, just human beings. Our children know this in some way. I think children can realize a lot more than we give them credit for. When we show we are as subject to “I’m Sorry” as they are, then the lesson has value. Two small words that take up 9 characters on a screen can still the hastened heart and the angry soul. Knowing this, I gladly trade in manliness in me for the ability to bring the worlds back to harmony.

Teaching My Daughters to Love The Game

As the new year starts and football season amps up with bowl games, the superbowl this weekend and other such great sporting events like this, I have been reflecting about what I have done to allow my girls to enjoy the sports that I like as well. Ever since that have been with us I have shared with them certain sports. For me, it is usually Football or Basketball.

As the new year starts and football season amps up with bowl games, the superbowl this weekend and other such great sporting events like this, I have been reflecting about what I have done to allow my girls to enjoy the sports that I like as well. Ever since that have been with us I have shared with them certain sports. For me, it is usually Football or Basketball. I would have them sit and watch the games with me and root on a certain team, even though at first they did not know what they were watching. Sometimes they were interested, other times, they could care less.

As they got older, I started to explain to them more about the rules of the games. Why certain things were happening, and why things were not happening. Why certain calls were made, while others were left alone (even though at times the call should definitely have been made). This was not easy and I found myself being challenged, as I did not always know all of the rules (I came to find). Thus, I had to do a lot of research, so that I was informing them about the right things. I didn’t want them calling a penalty when it really wasn’t now, did I?

Slowly, my girls began to appreciate the games more, and they would sit for longer periods of time watching the games with me. Now, they have come to appreciate the games that I like, but I now am seeing their interests burgeoning in other sport areas as well. Diva-J likes Tennis, while Diva-PJ likes Gymnastics (yes, even watching it on television). Yet, in saying this I can say that they do appreciate some of the sports that I have shared with them (score one for Dad!).

So as we get ready for the BIG Superbowl weekend, I intend to share it with my girls in any way that I can and have some fun with it along the way. Not only does it let me spend some quality time with the girls but it also lets me give them a gift for the future, a gift of knowing their father!